Discography involves injecting contrast dye into the spinal disc or discs that are likely to be causing your back pain. Your skin and deeper tissues will be numbed using a local anesthetic. An IV may be used on patients who need help relaxing during the procedure.
The patient is positioned on an X-ray equipped table. Then, with the aid of X-ray guidance, they will insert a needle into the affected disc and inject the contrast dye. Once the dye is injected, the area is monitored to observe the flow pattern and your pain response using a real-time X-ray known as a fluoroscope. If an injection into a spinal disc causes the same type of pain the patient has been experiencing, this is an indication that this is the disc causing the issue.
Discography takes about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how many discs are being tested. This is followed by a brief observed recovery time after the procedure. Since this is a quick and safe procedure, it is performed on an outpatient basis. On the day of the procedure, you may feel some discomfort that can be alleviated with ice and oral pain killers. Most people are ready to get back to their normal routine within a day or two after the test. While the procedure is considered safe, some people do experience side effects afterward. These can include temporary numbness, paralysis, bleeding, nerve damage, and infection.
Discography can be especially valuable in helping patients avoid unnecessary surgery. A discography can help identify issues and, depending on what is found, prevent a physician from moving on to a more invasive surgical procedure like a lumbar spinal fusion.